Effects on male fitness of removingWolbachiainfections from the mosquitoAedes albopictus

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Cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) induced by maternally inherited Wolbachia bacteria is a potential tool for the suppression of insect pest species with appropriate patterns of infection. The Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus (Skuse) (Diptera: Culicidae) is known to be infected by two strains of Wolbachia pipientis Hertig (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae), wAlb A and wAlb B, throughout its geographical distribution. This infection pattern theoretically restricts the application of CI-based control strategies. However, Wolbachia can be horizontally transferred using embryonic microinjection to generate incompatible transfected lines harbouring a single new strain of Wolbachia. In order to assess the feasibility of this approach, the effects of Wolbachia removal on mosquito fitness need to be clearly evaluated as the removal of natural superinfection is an inescapable step of this approach. Previous research has shown that uninfected females, produced by antibiotic treatment, showed a decrease in fitness compared with those infected with Wolbachia. In this study, the effect of Wolbachia removal on male fitness was investigated. Longevity and reproductive potential (mating competitiveness and sperm capacity) were assessed in both laboratory cages and greenhouses. No differences were observed between uninfected and infected males with respect to longevity, mating rate, sperm capacity and mating competitiveness in either laboratory conditions or greenhouses. The preservation of fitness in males of Ae. albopictus deprived of natural Wolbachia infection is discussed in relation to the development of incompatible insect technique suppression strategies. Finally, the potential application of aposymbiotic males in mark–release–recapture studies is suggested.

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